early 15c., "act of communicating, act of imparting, discussing, debating, conferring," from Old French comunicacion (14c., Modern French communication) and directly from Latin communicationem (nominative communicatio) "a making common, imparting, communicating; a figure of speech," noun of action from past-participle stem of communicare "to share, divide out; communicate, impart, inform; join, unite, participate in," literally "to make common," related to communis "common, public, general" (see common (adj.)). Meaning "that which is communicated" is from late 15c.; meaning "means of communication" is from 1715. Related: Communications; communicational.
late 14c., name for the god of dreams in Ovid, son of Sleep, literally "the maker of shapes," from Greek morphē "form, shape, figure," especially "a fine figure, a beautiful form; beauty, fashion, outward appearance," a word of uncertain etymology. Related: Morphean. Morphō was an epithet of Aphrodite at Sparta, literally "shapely."
1570s, "language, speech, mode of speech," especially "form of speech of a region or group, idiom of a locality or class" as distinguished from the general accepted literary language, also "one of a number of related modes of speech regarded as descended from a common origin," from French dialecte, from Latin dialectus "local language, way of speaking, conversation," from Greek dialektos "talk, conversation, speech;" also "the language of a country, dialect," from dialegesthai "converse with each other, discuss, argue," from dia "across, between" (see dia-) + legein "speak" from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to 'pick out words')").
also figure-head, 1765, from figure (n.) + head (n.). The ornament on the projecting part of the head of a ship, immediately under the bowsprit; sense of "leader without real authority" is first attested 1868.
You may say that the king is still head of the State, and that this is a sufficient basis for loyal feeling; certainly, if he were really so, and not a mere ornamented figure-head on the ship of state. [James Hadley, "Essays Philological and Critical," London, 1873]